I’ve enjoyed watching Clinton Kelly since he took over for the slightly too abrasive Wayne in the second season of TLC’s perennial favorite What Not to Wear. Since joining Stacy London to help makeover fashion disasters, Clinton has co-hosted the Miss America Pageant, appeared on shows like Rachael Ray and Good Morning America, and recently took on a day job co-hosting ABC’s The Chew. He’s also written two books, Freakin’ Fabulous: How to Dress, Speak, Behave, Eat, Drink, Entertain, Decorate, and Generally Be Better than Everyone Else and Oh No She Didn’t: The Top 100 Style Mistakes Women Make and How to Avoid Them. Oh, and he also has a fashion line on QVC. This weekend Clinton will add “red carpet guru” to his list of credits when he co-hosts the Emmys Red Carpet Live pre-show. I had the opportunity chat with the busy guy about going live, giving compliments, and the recent lack of red carpet risk takers.
NGTV: What are you most looking forward to seeing or doing at the Emmys?
Clinton Kelly: This is my first Emmys, and I’m very excited to be a part of it, quite frankly. I’ve been working in the TV industry for almost a decade now, so it’s really nice to be invited to participate – even though I’m not nominated. *chuckles* I just want to see what it’s all about, you know? I’m going to be surrounded by TV stars for a day! I think that sounds like fun. I want to have a lighthearted time out there. I don’t take these things too seriously; I like to see what everybody’s wearing. That’s the reason I watch the Emmys for the most part, to see who wins and what people are wearing, and this time I get to talk to people about what they’re wearing.
NGTV: Will you have to do the whole “who are you wearing?” bit, or can you spot the designers a mile away?
Clinton: Oh, I can’t spot it from a mile away. *laughs* That’s the thing, I’m really not a Fashion Guy, I’m more of a Style Guy. Fashion Guys are more excited about the actual clothes, but as a Style Guy I’m more excited when somebody’s style is a true reflection of who they are as a person. I like to see the way they put things together, or, for example, how a woman dresses her particular body type. I’m sure I’ll ask “Who are you wearing?”, but for me the question really is “WHY are you wearing that designer?”
NGTV: I dare you! I dare you to ask them and see what they say. Nobody’s prepared for that question!
Clinton: *laughing* No, they’re not! If I go up to someone and say, “Why did you choose this dress? What is it about this dress that made you want to wear it on the red carpet tonight?”, I think that’s an incredibly valid question. I think that’s what a lot of women want to hear about.
NGTV: I know I do, as a viewer sitting at home. I want to know why they chose it, what appealed to them.
Clinton: Right? Was it the first dress you tried on? Did you try on 500 dresses? Did your stylist convince you? Or did your Mom? Was your Mom in the room with you, or your best friend? How did you come to this decision? I think that’s part of the whole romance behind getting dressed for the red carpet. We all know that a lot of work goes into it, so tell us about the work!
NGTV: I vote that’s your question for the red carpet.
Clinton: Great. I’m golden.
NGTV: I was wondering, with your day job, you have all these celebrities coming on The Chew. Do any of them come up and ask for tips on what to wear? Either to the Emmys or in general?
Clinton: It’s so funny – no one has come up and asked me for tips, but sometimes I’ll see someone backstage and say, “Oh, I love what you’re wearing”, and they’ll say, “Oh thank goodness. I was so nervous!” *laughs* It’s really sweet, because you know, I’m just a person giving my opinion. But it’s kind of fun to hear when people are slightly intimidated…I think it’s hilarious.
NGTV: Well you do have good taste, so to get a compliment from you right before going on national television would certainly calm the nerves.
Clinton: Oh, well thank you. [insert sound of blushing]
NGTV: Who are you most looking forward to seeing on the red carpet? Is there any particular celebrity you’re hoping has a fantastic fashion moment?
Clinton: I’m really looking forward to seeing Sofia Vergara. I’m fascinated by her. I can’t take my eyes off of her when she’s on any television screen. I kind of just want to see her in the flesh for the first time. I’ve never met her, I’ve never been at an event she was at, and I just want to get up close and look at her. She’ll probably be like, “Why are you staring at me, freak?” *chuckles* I’m looking for signs of a pulse, signs that she’s actually human!
NGTV: Like, is she real?
Clinton: Exactly! I’m looking forward to seeing other people as well, like Tina Fey. I keep running into Tina Fey in life, whether it’s on Amtrak or in the airport, so I’m kind of excited to see her all glammed up on the red carpet. And Julie Bowen, too. I’m a big Modern Family fan. I’m looking forward to seeing Jane Lynch; I’ve never met her. I’m looking forward to meeting Rashida Jones; I think she’s pretty cool, so I’m hoping to meet her if at all possible. Who knows what will happen! It’s going to be a madhouse! I mean, we’re doing live TV!
NGTV: The Chew is live, isn’t it?
Clinton: It’s live to tape. We shoot from 9-10, but we shoot it like it’s live, and it’s in front of live humans in the audience. I like doing live stuff. I did Miss America for a few years, back in the day when it was on TLC and that was live. Nothing gets your adrenaline pumping like being on live TV and knowing that millions of people are listening to every word that you say. It’s like being on crack. Not that I would know, I’ve never been on crack.
NGTV: *laughs* “Live TV is like being on crack. Maybe. We don’t really know.”
Clinton: *laughs* Maybe. Maybe not.
NGTV: It’s like doing a triple espresso shot.
Clinton: Yes, like a very strong mug of espresso.
NGTV: Yeah, I’m glad we got that settled. Now going into the Emmys, it feels like it’s been a very safe few years on the red carpet. Do you feel the same way? That nobody’s taking risks anymore?
Clinton: I’ve been feeling the same way, to be honest. I’ve been…I wouldn’t say “underwhelmed” is the right word, but I’ve been sort of left wanting more when it comes to a lot of red carpet that I’ve seen lately. I get that everybody wants to be on the Best Dressed List, nobody wants to be on the Worst Dressed List. And what happens is that everybody knows that to get on the Best Dressed List, you basically take a classic approach to Hollywood glamour. And a lot of classic approach in one place can get boring, it gets a little bit monotonous.
I also think that the jewelry has been really understated. It’s exciting to see large pieces of jewelry on the red carpet. Nothing says Glamour like a woman dripping in jewels. We’ve not been seeing a lot of that, the focus has been on the gowns. Something that I’ve noticed lately is that women aren’t doing a solid satin as much anymore. The dresses have embellishments or texture or a little bit of print here and there. I feel like incrementally it’s getting a little more exciting, but I really wish they’d play up the baubles more on the red carpet.
NGTV: I miss, like, J.Lo’s green dress or Elizabeth Hurley in that dress with the safety pins. You know, that one gown that everybody was like, “Oh my gosh!” and everyone talked about it for years and it’s a permanent part of their fashion profiles.
Clinton: You’re right, we haven’t seen an iconic dress in a long time. To do that, you’ve got to be gutsy. You’ve got to realize that you just might end up being the butt of some jokes. That J.Lo dress was cut really, really high and really, really low, and she took some ribbing for that, but she’s J.Lo. She can handle it. For a woman to really make a statement like that, she’s got to have been in Hollywood long enough to be able to spin it, to really own it, or she’s got to be looking to be making a splash because she wants a career boost, she wants some attention. And in a lot of ways actresses are like “real” women: they want to look beautiful, they want to feel beautiful, they don’t want to be ridiculed, and I think that’s led them to be safe.
NGTV: I know you have other people to chat with, so thank you for your time and I look forward to watching you on Sunday.
Clinton: I’d like to say that I’ve enjoyed our interview very much. I liked our conversation. Take it easy, Melissa.
[And then I blushed.]
Catch Clinton Kelly’s red carpet debut as he co-hosts the Emmys Red Carpet Live on ABC Sunday, September 23 at 8/7c.